State of Wisconsin files lawsuit against 18 companies over alleged PFAS contamination

Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 4:40 PM CDT
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FRENCH ISLAND, Wis. (WEAU) - Wisconsin lawmakers are turning to the courtroom to try and remove harmful PFAS chemicals from water supplies across the state.

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that are found in products such as non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, and certain types of firefighting foam.

Studies over the years have shown exposure to the chemicals can result in adverse health effects, including liver damage, thyroid disease, and kidney and testicular cancers.

In 2020, a potentially harmful amount of PFAS was discovered in the water wells of French Island, which Town of Campbell Supervisor Lee Donahue says has changed the everyday lives of the community.

“You brush your teeth, and you have to rinse your toothbrush with bottled water, and then you go to make your coffee, you’ve got to make it with bottled water,” Donahue expressed. “It impacts every moment of your life, 24 hours a day, and we’ve been living this nightmare for nearly two years.”

French Island residents have been advised not to use the water in their own homes, instead having to rely on bottled water and water coolers for their daily needs.

Dozens of other communities across Wisconsin have similarly discovered PFAS in their water, with the chemicals being found in Eau Claire, Marinette, Peshtigo, and many other municipalities.

State officials have been working to eliminate the harmful chemicals over the last few years, and are now heading to court try and remediate PFAS.

Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul have filed a lawsuit against three Wisconsin manufacturers and 15 other defendants for “wrongful, deceptive, and tortious conduct” that lead to statewide PFAS contaminations.

The suit alleges the defendants knowingly made products that contained PFAS, and did nothing to warn the public about the health problems the chemicals could cause.

“These manufacturers knew, or should have known, that their products could harm public health, pollute our waters, and our natural resources,” Evers said in French Island Wednesday. “Rather than warning consumers and users of associated risks and harm, these polluters concealed these dangers, and even downplayed them to our families, communities, and Wisconsinites.”

3M Company, Du Pont, Tyco Fire Products, and BASF Corporation are among the companies named in the suit.

The goal for Kaul is to make those manufacturers and others pay for the removal of PFAS chemicals in Wisconsin.

“The significant costs that are going to go into cleaning PFAS up out of our water should be borne, not by the taxpayers of Wisconsin, but by the companies that were responsible for manufacturing PFAS products,” Kaul said.

Kaul adds since the lawsuit will take some time to develop, immediate action is needed from the state legislature and federal government to help communities dealing with PFAS in their water wells.

The suit was filed in Dane County Wednesday, and the defendants are required to respond within 45 days.

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